Journey to Armenia, Hardback
5 out of 5 (1 rating)


Osip Mandelstam visited Armenia in 1930, and during the eight months of his stay he rediscovered his poetic voice and was inspired to write an experimental meditation on the country and its ancient culture. 'Armenia brought him back to his true self, a self depending on the "inner ear" which could never play a poet false.

There was everything congenial to him in this country of red and ochre landscape, ancient churches, and resonant pottery.' (Henry Gifford).

Conversation about Dante, Mandelstam's incomparable apologia for poetic freedom and challenge to the Bolshevik establishment, was dictated by the poet to his wife, Nadezhda Mandelstam, in 1934-35, during the last phase of his itinerant life.

It has close ties to the Journey.


  • Format: Hardback
  • Publisher: Notting Hill Editions
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Literary essays
  • ISBN: 9781907903472



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The best poems are always prose, this book wants to make me say--the kind of deadpan, ludicrous epigram that Mandelstam could almost pull off. But no, he'd be more likely to say that the best words are the ones that never get a chance to congeal into these embarrassing remnant forms--instead, the ones that flicker caressingly across your set of predispositions that is you and change ones to zeroes and zeroes to ones; that burrow and coccoon and come out hardy and woody yet limber new appendages, extending your scope of movement. The overt theme is the journey, but this be no travelogue: not cod-ethnography but felt difference is what is on Mandelstam's mind, and the lionization of small peoples, and the reclamation of a (cod-)preclassical past of yoghurt gourds, camping on ridges tired from one day's ascent and tingling for another's, and, ummmmm, Ararat. The way sounds feel--the sounds of Armenian serving as the occasion for much synaesthetic speechmaking--and the bequest sounds bear for their utterers--a deeply sensuous linguistic relativity. This sensuousness above all--I grinned biggest of many grins when he said, as has long been my key piece of gallerygoing advice, move fast, stride on, make of the work a draught for drinking on your trek, not a fetish-object for deathly hours with a magnifying-glass over. (My second half of that, a byword only for me as opposed to for everybody, has been imagine that art in your mouth. Kapow!) Not growing moss, more profound and <i>ursprunglich</i> a cliche than we know perhaps (CF. BRUCE CHATWIN), but here embodied in the poet as gypsy thief as immortal, unrepentant wanderluster only for experiences that are not his own, that do not belong to the fields and collective farms he knows. "The Armenian that therefore I am."